Racism Or Justice? Black Drug Dealer Gets 21 Years For White Heroin User’s Overdose

June 23, 2016  |  

Image Source: Shutterstock

Image Source: Shutterstock

The website PennLive raised an interesting question about the recent conviction and sentencing of a Black drug dealer in the death of a White heroin junkie.

Was it racism or justice?

Moments before a federal judge sentenced his client to 21 years in prison on Monday, the lawyer for a black drug dealer said racism might have played into his client’s conviction for a white man’s heroin overdose death.

That was not the case, U.S. Middle District Chief Judge Christopher C. Conner insisted as he sentenced Eugene “Bruno” Stallings Jr., 28, of Baltimore. The evidence, including a record of drug trafficking, and not the color of Stallings’ skin was the basis for Stallings’ multiple convictions for the February 2014 death of 21-year-old Kyle Golter of Shippensburg, the judge said.

Stallings’ 21-year prison term was above the 20-year mandatory sentence Conner had to impose for his February conviction by a federal jury. Assistant U.S. Attorney Meredith Taylor asked for a punishment that could have kept Stallings behind bars for more than 30 years.

Stallings, who had asked for mercy, thanked the judge. He sought leniency, in part, because he claimed he was held in crowded and unsanitary conditions at Dauphin County Prison following his arrest. Conner rejected that argument. “I have made some bad choices. But that’s not who I am,” Stallings told the judge.

The racism argument was raised by Stallings’ attorney, James H. Rowland Jr., who questioned why Stallings was brought from Maryland, where he sold the heroin that killed Golter, to be prosecuted in Pennsylvania.”I know racism and the potential for racism when I see it,” Rowland said. “We can’t put blacks in a situation where it’s almost guaranteed they will be convicted.”

Stallings’ case was handled by a white prosecutor, he noted, and an all-white the [sic] jury heard the case. Rowland also observed that Stallings’ co-defendants, including Ashley Gries, who sold the fatal dose of heroin to Golter, are white. Yet, he said, none of the co-defendants faced a sentence so severe. Gries received a 10-year prison term. No other defendant was sentenced to more than 15 years behind bars.

As no surprise to most, the prosecuting office vehemently denied the racism charge, saying that Stallings’ co-defendants received less time because they cooperated with prosecutors (to do what, other than to give up and testify against Stallings, no one knows). Instead, he asserts that it was all a game of numbers.

More specifically:

The prosecutor also noted that when he sold the heroin that killed Golter, Stallings was on probation for one of his two marijuana-dealing convictions in Maryland.

Taylor also resorted to math. One dose of heroin, which contains about 0.25 grams of the drug, sells for $10 on the street, she wrote in a sentencing memorandum. A single dose can be fatal, she said, and investigators found Stallings played a role in putting 940 doses into circulation in Cumberland and Franklin counties in late 2013 and early 2014.

That must be Common Core math because I have no idea why that means he deserved more time in prison. I mean, did 940 other people also overdose? Is Stallings being prosecuted for that?

According to a previous report, it was actually Stallings’ White co-defenders who traveled to Baltimore to buy the drugs from him. And it was his White co-defenders who actually sold Golter the drugs that he eventually overdosed on. So the need to extradite him from Maryland to Pennsylvania to face charges of drug trafficking seems excessive to say the least.

And according to this previously published article in the Waynesboro Record Herald, heroin overdoses in that region are “an all-too-common occurrence.” So while sad, what makes Golter’s life and death more deserving of this much investigation and prosecutorial attention than the millions of other folks who have died from drug overdoses over the years?

If it isn’t the color of Stallings’ skin, it must certainly have to be the color of Golter’s.

And this is serious. I mean, look at how heroin addiction has been treated by the media, medical professionals, and the criminal justice system as of late. Unlike the crack era, which came with stiff penalties, long jail sentences and its very own war, heroin gets the kid gloves. The heroin era is one where the use of drugs is looked at as a treatable disease. Its users, who are mostly White, are victims. The media, the courts, the health professionals, and all of those connected to the movement of it want us to empathize and show compassion for these poor wayward souls.

But in the ’80s, the addicts identified indifferently as crackheads (or if you are really from the ’80s, “pipers”) were painted as hopped up and deranged monsters, ready to kill and sell their own children for their next hits. Narratives were created about crack addicted babies who were going to grow up and continue to be insatiable animals, killing and selling other children for hits. The unsubstantiated fear over crackheads running amok in America’s streets resulted in astronomical numbers of both Black and Latino men and women serving long prison sentences for their “disease.”

Of course, we found out later that most of what they told us about the drugs and their actual effect on us socially wasn’t true. Crack babies were merely a myth created by Reaganomics and neoliberalism. In actuality, it was the poverty that was really hurting the kids. Babies born to drug addicts went through detoxes on their own and live perfectly normal lives. And so did many of their drug addicted parents, many of whom became highly functioning members of society.

In fact, it was the war on drugs itself that did more to destabilize communities and break up families. Of course, we all learned this all a little too late in the game as the damage from stigmatization had already been done.

And even to this day, folks swear they know a crack baby…

Anyway, I am happy that people have a new awareness and are now seeing all drug addiction as a disease as opposed to a criminal offense. I just wish we would get around to having this same sort of ethical shift when it comes to those on the distribution end. I mean, we don’t hold liquor companies responsible for their products, and according to the CDC,“excessive alcohol use led to approximately 88,000 deaths and 2.5 million years of potential life lost (YPLL) each year in the United States from 2006 – 2010, shortening the lives of those who died by an average of 30 years.”

But while I do believe that there is strong possibility that Stallings is being railroaded because of his race, I don’t want to say that this is just about racism. If I had to speculate, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if some people were looking to earn some career-defining points with the chain of command for “breaking up an interstate drug cartel.”

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